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Volume 70, Issue 130, Friday, April 15, 2005


Cougars to hit road in charity bike ride

UH team will bike to Austin as part of the annual MS 150 event

By Yasmin Siam
The Daily Cougar

Some UH students will be going the distance this weekend to benefit people struggling with multiple sclerosis.

Jessica Wheeler, program director in health and human performance, joined exercise science major Eduardo Powell to form a team and lead Cougars across the finish line of the BP MS 150, a Houston-to-Austin bicycle ride benefiting those with the disease.

The MS 150 is one of three fund-raising bike tours hosted by the National MS Society. More than 10,000 cyclists will bike to Austin; the other tours are the MS 150 Red River Challenge from Dallas to Oklahoma and the H-E-B MS 150 from San Antonio to Corpus Christi.

Members of UH's MS 150 team (from left) Shivakumar Bhaskaran, Peter Zaffos, Lauren Zaffos, Venkatesh Shenoy, Tom Burton, Miguel Lopez, Jessica Wheeler, Manuel Alanis, Eduardo Powell and Klodian Hoxha will bicycle to Austin this weekend to benefit victims of multiple sclerosis.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Wheeler

Wheeler and Powell are both active cyclists who have participated in the ride once before.

"I went to the MS 150 last year with three other people from UH," Powell said. "I thought it would be cool to get a bigger team together this year, so I approached Jessica about being my co-captain."

Through flyers and word of mouth, Wheeler and Powell initially gathered 22 people but ended with 18 to form UH's MS 150 team.

"We got a late start; registration was only a month or two away," Powell said. "We can definitely get more people next year if we start earlier."

MS 150 participants are required to raise at least $300 each in donations for the cause. The event gives cyclists the opportunity to ride for someone with MS through the Pedal Partner program. Wheeler said she is going to ride for a former co-worker who struggles with MS.

"Sometimes we take for granted our abilities," Wheeler said. "Pedal Partners are great motivation to finish the race, and it's always good giving something back."

Participants may either sign up for random Pedal Partners or ride for someone specific. Cyclists wear bright orange bandanas signed by their partners during the ride.

"This is my fist time riding for a Pedal Partner, but I'm definitely going to do it from now on," Powell said. "It keeps reminding me what I am riding and working so hard for."

The team has spent the past couple months to prepare for the 180-mile ride. Wheeler said they tried to practice together on the weekends, but it wasn't easy getting everyone together.

"It would have helped the team to practice together all the time, but work and school schedules make it hard," Wheeler said.

Powell said the team would meet at about 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday and ride between 50 and 60 miles, roughly five hours. Sometimes they would finish with 20 more miles on stationary bicycles in the Garrison Gymnasium.

Though they usually practiced with rides around Houston, Powell said the team's last practice ride was in Galveston.

Wheeler and Powell said the team keeps a steady pace, but setbacks came from flat tires.

"It's a pain, but it's going to happen, and when it does, we all stop together and wait while the person fixes the flat," Wheeler said.

Not everyone had a top-of-the-line bicycle, but hand-me-downs and loaners came to the rescue. First-time riders Mike Kueht and Ven Schenoy said practice was no walk in the park, especially for new cyclists. Schenoy said a good bike can make the ride easier and much more comfortable.

"If you're not used to riding, it's going to be painful," Kueht said. "You're going to feel it in your butt."

Some of the new riders are a little nervous about the event. Kueht said his goal is to just make it to Austin, but Powell and Wheeler, the team leaders, said they're confident in their companions.

"The team has worked hard, and hopefully we will ride and finish together safely," Powell said.

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